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This report summarizes legislation concerning the agricultural use of water in nineteen countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Central Asia. It includes a summary of the laws that govern the agricultural use of water, the government authorities in charge of the administration of water for agriculture, requirements for licenses to use water for this purpose, and relevant guidelines on conservation and quality.  In addition, some of the surveys provide information on intercountry disputes over the use of water.

A comparative summary is included.

Full Report (PDF, 734KB)


Eighty percent of Afghanistan’s water supply comes from rivers that are fed by snowmelt from the Hindu Kush Mountains.  Afghanistan enacted a Water Law in 2009 that regulates ownership, fees, rights, permits, and usage with respect to water.Afghanistan has ongoing disputes over water with two of its neighbors—Iran and Pakistan.

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Provinces in Argentina legislate on matters related to natural resources in their territories while the central government regulates the internal river navigation and commerce.  All water is public property with few exceptions.  Water use rights may be acquired by permit, by concession, and through authorization.

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Brazil implemented a new irrigation policy in January of 2013 encouraging the expansion of irrigated areas, increasing productivity on an environmentally sustainable basis, reducing climate risks inherent in agricultural activities, and promoting local and regional development.

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Chilean legislation does not expressly regulate the use of water for agricultural purposes, however it does provide for incentives, mainly for irrigation of agricultural lands. Chile’s legal framework on water for agriculture remains open and driven by the market.

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The Nile River is the main water resource for Egypt. The situation among countries of the Nile Basin became more complicated when Ethiopia announced that it would build the “Renaissance Dam” and Egypt has accused Ethiopia of endangering its water security.

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Iran has a comprehensive legal framework regarding the use of water in agriculture because the agricultural sector consumes more than 93% of its water resources. The government is in charge of setting agricultural requirements for water licenses and the ownership of water resources.

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Water sources in the State of Israel are publicly owned and controlled by the state.  Water production and use require licensing and compliance with requirements regarding the efficiency, amount, and proper maintenance of water.

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Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan

The Constitutions of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan state that water belongs to all people and is the property of the state. The use of water for agricultural purposes is regulated by executive agencies, while the management of water resources and irrigation infrastructure is conducted by territorial government authorities. Despite the conclusion of interstate agreements, unresolved conflicts between upstream and downstream countries continue because of the unregulated taking of water from transborder water sources.

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Lebanon, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq

The use of water in agriculture in the countries of the Middle East has been historically governed by general principles developed under classical Islamic law. A number of laws relating to water were enacted in Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen after World War I. The use of water in agriculture is still governed by these basic principles, either through the direct application of the provisions or through legislation that confirms past practices under Islamic law.

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Libya was considered one of the driest countries on earth until it created an irrigation system that depends on the underground water found in sandstone aquifers, known as “fossilized water.” There is legislation governing the issue of water usage for agricultural and drinking purposes. A governor in Mali has accused the Libyan authorities of attempting to divert the Niger River to increase farmland areas at the expense of the Niger Delta.

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Mexican waters are national property, and their use is allocated by concessions granted by the federal government through its National Water Commission. The law also provides that conservation and protection of the quantity and quality of water is a matter of national security; therefore, unsustainable use and pollution of water must be avoided.

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In Nicaragua the use of water, including its use in agriculture, is mainly governed by the National General Water Law and its Regulation. The Law charges the National Water Authority with administering, planning, and controlling the use of water resources, as well as granting water concessions. The Law also provides for the permanent protection and conservation of water sources.

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A number of separate laws and regulations govern the use of water in agriculture in Turkey, and there is no clear provision defining water rights. Although there is potential for serious water conflict between Turkey and its neighbors, some mechanisms have been launched to resolve issues.

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The use of water in agriculture requires a government-issued concession or permit, and is subject to the control and monitoring powers of a myriad of national, state, and local governmental entities. There is no private ownership of waters.

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Last Updated: 12/31/2020